Ukraine's Referendum On NATO No Sooner Than 2008

KIEV, Ukraine -- A referendum on Ukraine's accession to NATO will be held no sooner than 2008, the country's foreign minister said Thursday.

NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (L) and Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Borys Tarasyuk (R) after the press point following the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at NATO HQ

Western-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko has made NATO membership a priority since coming to power in 2004, but has met with strong opposition on the issue from the pro-Russian political forces in the country.

Borys Tarasyuk said the referendum should be held only after all the necessary procedures have been implemented.

Ukraine must first participate in the Membership Action Plan to prepare for NATO entry, and inform the public on relations with NATO, he said.

The minister said the recent four-month political crisis in the country and the delay in forming a government after the March parliamentary elections had slowed down Ukraine's course toward NATO, begun in 2005.

Tarasyuk added that the country's new prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, would visit Brussels to discuss Ukraine's adopting of the Membership Action Plan with the NATO leadership.

Source: RIA Novosti